Easing of restrictions on public entertainment prelude to plans to build hundreds of cinemas across the country.
The Emoji Movie may not have set box office records when it was released last summer, but the movie nonetheless has made history by becoming the first movie shown in a theater in Saudi Arabia after the lifting of a 35-year ban on cinemas.
According to a report from Reuters, the movie was shown in a makeshift theater in Jeddah, as part of a weeklong screening organized by the Cinema 70 brand owned by Mamdouh Salim.
The lifting of the ban -- put in place in the early 1980s when the country was moving toward a more conservative interpretation of Islam -- was lifted in part because the government is seeking to both diversify its economy beyond oil and to keep the money many Saudis spend traveling to countries like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to consume entertainment, including movies.
While the films are being censored to appease conservatives, Saudi authorities plan to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens by 2030, Reuters reports.